Judge makes move to move female wrestler case further in court
WILLIAMSPORT - The judge who ruled in the Audriana Beattie case has scheduled a February teleconference to establish deadlines for the case to move further through the court.
An "initial case management conference" involving Beattie's parents federal lawsuit against Line Mountain School District is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, involving court personnel and legal representations from the two sides, according to documents filed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
On Jan. 13, Brann granted Brian and Angie Beattie a preliminary injunction that prohibits the district from taking any action to prevent Audriana from participating in the wrestling program until the case is resolved, either through an out-of-court settlement or through trial. The school had argued that the seventh-grader couldn't participate in the all-male wrestling program.
Deadlines to be established include those for "completion of discovery, amendment of pleadings, joinder of parties, filing of motions and trial," Brann wrote in his notice.
Lead counsel for each party is required to meet prior to the conference and complete a joint case management plan form at least five days prior, Brann said.
At the conference, the case will be placed on one of four tracks: fast, expedited, standard or complex. The complex track would set a trial date in excess of 20 months from the filing of the complaint.
According to Brann's schedule, the earliest a trial would take place is December, which is based on the next discovery deadline following the conference next month.
At a Jan. 14 board meeting, the school board released a statement expressing disappointment with Brann's order and said it would review its options.
The Beatties' attorney, Abbe F. Fletman, said it's common for parties to settle out of court after a preliminary injunction is granted, but she couldn't say whether that would happen in this case.
The judge had ruled Nov. 1 in what was termed a "temporary" injunction that Beattie was allowed to participate in the wrestling program as the suit proceeded, and the district is honoring that order, as it is with the preliminary injunction.
The district has argued Beattie can't join the team because the wrestling program is gender-specific and allowing her to wrestle opens the district to liability. It says they are protecting Beattie and male athletes from potentially awkward situations and sexual contact during practices and matches, and the psychological scarring and inevitable injury and defeat of female wrestlers.
Her parents say the district is discriminating on the basis of gender in violation of equal rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.
In his 29-page memorandum and order on Jan. 13, Brann, who heard testimony on Nov. 20, sided with the Beatties.